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Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Effects of grazing intensity on seed production of Caragana stenophylla along a climatic aridity gradient in the Inner Mongolia Steppe, China

Abstract

As the increases of climatic aridity and grazing intensity, shrubs play an increasingly important role in grassland ecosystem in arid and semi-arid regions, and its abundance also generally increases. However, the effects of climatic aridity and grazing intensity on sexual reproduction of shrubs in grassland remain largely unclear. In order to understand the effects of grazing intensity and climatic drought stress, and their interaction on seed production of shrub species, we examined the seed number, seed weight and seed yield of Caragana stenophylla under three grazing intensities (fenced, mild grazing and severe grazing) across a climatic aridity gradient (semi-arid, arid, very arid and intensively arid zones) in the Inner Mongolia Steppe, northern China during 2012–2013. The seed number, seed weight and seed yield gradually increased from the semi-arid to the very arid zones, but decreased from the very arid to the intensively arid zones in fenced plots. The seed number and seed yield decreased from the semi-arid to the intensively arid zones in mild and severe grazing treatment plots, therefore, grazing enhanced the suppression effect of climatic aridity on seed production of C. stenophylla. The seed number and seed yield gradually decreased as grazing intensity increased. The seed weight was highest in severe grazing plots, followed by the mild grazing plots and then the fenced plots. Precipitation varied interannually during the study period. We observed that the seed number, seed weight and seed yield were lower in the low precipitation year (2013) than in the high precipitation year (2012). As climatic drought stress increased, the negative effects of grazing on seed production of C. stenophylla also gradually increased. Our results indicated that climatic drought stress may contribute to the encroachment of C. stenophylla shrub in arid zones by promoting its seed production. However, grazing had negative effects on sexual reproduction of C. stenophylla, and the combined effects of drought stress and grazing seriously suppressed sexual reproduction of C. stenophylla in the intensively arid zone.

Keywords

grazing; seed number; seed weight; seed yield; arid and semi-arid zones; Caragana stenophylla

First Page

890

Last Page

898

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